The Great Train Robbery is a 1903 American Western film by Edwin S. Porter. Twelve minutes long, it is considered a milestone in film making, expanding on Porter's previous work Life of an American Fireman. The film used a number of innovative techniques including cross cutting, double exposure composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting. Cross-cuts were a new, sophisticated editing technique. Some prints were also hand colored in certain scenes. None of the techniques were original to The Great Train Robbery, and it is now considered that it was heavily influenced by Frank Mottershaw's earlier British film A Daring Daylight Burglary. The film uses simple editing techniques (each scene is a single shot) and the story is mostly linear (with only a few "meanwhile" moments), but it represents a significant step in movie making, being one of the first "narrative" movies of significant length. It was quite successful in theaters and was imitated many times.
The movie was directed and photographed by Edwin S. Porter, a former Edison Studios cameraman. Actors in the movie included A. C. Abadie, Broncho Billy Anderson and Justus D. Barnes, although there were no credits. Though a Western, it was filmed in Milltown, New Jersey. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
July 22, 2016 Subject:
As early as 1903 Porter took the threads of what we now call linear narrative, with some elements of cross cutting and camera movement, and created the first widely recognised `western`. Several archetypes are here; the fight on the top of a moving train; the `hey guys there`s a trouble afoot` parallel cut; the horseback chase; the shootout and so on. Of particular note is the epilogue featuring the man shooting at the camera. This, of course, is quoted by Martin Scorcese at the end of `Goodfellas`, when Joe Pesci intertextually reprises this classic trope. Cracking stuff.